As the coronavirus continues to spread, many airlines are facing mounting pressure to halt hall flights to and from China. American Airlines pilots have joined together and filed a lawsuit seeking an immediate halt to any services operating in China. As of now, flights are still ongoing.
Over 10,000 coronavirus cases have already been reported in China, resulting in 213 deaths. Those are the numbers released by the Chinese government, which means the true numbers are likely significantly higher. The virus started in China but has already been spread to 18 different countries, mostly through commercial flights out of the country.
American Airlines released a statement saying that they are taking extra precautions against the virus, but was giving no comment on the lawsuit filed by many of their pilots.
American has canceled many flights into China, but several remain active. The Allied Pilots Association (APA) represents American Airlines pilots and has been actively urging pilots to turn down and flight assignments that include stops in China.
Airlines seem to be divided on whether to halt flights or not. So far Air France KLM SA, British Airways, Lufthansa and Virgin Atlantic have stopped all flights to mainland China. United has canceled over 332 flights, but some still remain operational.
Naturally, all airlines have seen a drastic drop in the number of passengers attempting to book any flights that include stops in China. If this virus continues to spread, it’s likely that we’ll see governments begin to step in and force airlines to stop services to affected countries, like China.
This is outbreak is the biggest threat to the airline industry since the 2003 SARS crisis. Those who followed the space back then will remember that passenger demand plummeted a staggering 45% back then. If this virus continues to proliferate at the pace it has been, it could very easily surpass the severity of the SARS crisis. Time will tell.